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A seasoned international technology investor, Sameer Chishty, who has recently become Chairman and CEO of Bol Network, admitted that there were no clear answers to ‘Why invest in Pakistan’ – the topic selected for a panel discussion organised by the Harvard Club of Pakistan at the recently-sold Bol Media Group Head Office.

After several people participated in the question-and-answer session including Bykea founder Muneeb Maayr – who asked if Pakistan’s fintech was really as lucrative for investment as everyone touts it to be – Chishty eventually took command from the moderator to remind everyone that this was just the beginning of the dialogue.

The answer to the ‘million-dollar question’ of why invest in Pakistan remained elusive.

“Today’s question was – why invest in Pakistan? You may not have a clear answer. But we have initiated a dialogue. We may create partnerships and further dialogue around it,” said Chishty as he wrapped up the discussion.

Apart from Chishty – who is also chairman at AsiaPak Investments – Misbah Naqvi, General Partner and co-founder i2i Ventures and Muhammad Shamoon Tariq, founder Mahana Wealth and ex-partner/CIO Tundra Fonder AB, were the panelists.

Earlier, Chishty said that things are changing fast and now everyone has become some kind of creator. Multiple screen access has changed the dynamics of content creation as he discussed AsiaPak Investments’ acquisition of a media network in Pakistan.

Shamoon, who has managed the Pakistan fund of Tundra Fonder, said Pakistan needs consistent policies if it wants to make a real investment pitch.

Tariq said the world is flushed with liquidity and if Pakistan manages to address its issues such as lack of consistency in policies it can attract investment.

“Pakistan can be seen as a rent-seeking economy. The government is giving you 23%. Why would you invest in a manufacturing factory?

“Even in the PSX (Pakistan Stock Exchange), most of them are government protected.”

Shamoon elaborated that investors look at Pakistan with a short-term lens because of its constant boom-and-bust economic cycles. “The PSX companies have shown good profitability. Yet the price-to-earnings ratio is much lower.

“Comparable economies have stock markets trading at much higher multiples. Pakistan can also get there if it shows consistency and a firm long-term view.”

Misbah said that there’s a need for Pakistani investors to step up to support the startup ecosystem and bridge the gap at a time when international investors are shying away from riskier assets.

She said cycles come to every country but investors tend to have long-term view of Pakistan.

“Pakistan has great potential to leverage technology that can serve a big underserved population in different ways such as loan opportunities and banking the unbanked.”

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